If the Palestinian Authority genuinely desired international recognition as a sovereign state, Mahmoud Abbas wouldn't have come to New York to seek membership in the UN General Assembly this week. There would have been no need to, for Palestine would have long since taken its seat in the United Nations.
Were Palestinian statehood Abbas's real goal, after all, he could have delivered it to his people three years ago. In 2008, then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert proposed the creation of a sovereign Palestinian state on territory equal (after land swaps) to 100 percent of the West Bank and Gaza, with free passage between the two plus a capital in the Arab section of Jerusalem. Yet Abbas turned down the Israeli offer. And he has refused ever since even to engage in negotiations.
"It is our legitimate right to demand the full membership of the state of Palestine in the UN," Abbas declared in Ramallah on Friday, "to put an end to a historical injustice by attaining liberty and independence, like the other peoples of the earth."
But for the better part of a century, the Arabs of Palestine have consistently said no when presented with the chance to build a state of their own. They said no in 1937, when the British government, which then ruled Palestine, proposed to divide the land into separate Arab and Jewish states. Arab leaders said no again in 1947, choosing to go to war rather than accept the UN's decision to partition Palestine between its Jewish and Arab populations. When Israel in 1967 offered to relinquish the land it had acquired in exchange for peace with its neighbors, the Arab world's response, issued at a summit in Khartoum, was not one no, but three: "No peace with Israel, no negotiations with Israel, no recognition of Israel."